Parliamentary Round Up: Bulletin No. 6 – 2019

First Session Ninth Parliament
Wednesday 30 January 2019

On Monday 28 January 2018, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts met with officials from the Ministry of Finance. Appearing before the committee on compliance issues, the Ministry of Finance was represented by its Permanent Secretary, Mr George Guvamatanga, Accountant General, Mr Daniel Muchemwa and his deputy Mr Edwin Zvandasara. This comes after the PAC Chairperson Hon. Tendai Biti last year, chucked out Mr Muchemwa for failing to answer questions pertaining to the country’s debt. In the meeting, held in December last year, Hon Biti had expressed disappointment before summoning the Secretary for Finance and other senior Ministry officials to appear before the same committee yesterday. But the Accountant General once more, came to the meeting unprepared as he failed to answer why the Finance Ministry was non-compliant to the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act, Reserve Bank Act and the Public Debt Management Act and the Constitution. Mr Muchemwa was also questioned for failure by Treasury to produce quarterly consolidated financial statements and issuing warrants of expenditure during the past three years of his tenure.

Mr Guvamatanga was also grilled on compliance issues and said the Ministry was aware of these and would ensure that the Ministry complies. He said the Ministry was going under review and concerned by non-compliance that required immediate remediation. Hon. Biti also quizzed Mr Guvamatanga on Treasury’s failure to disclose unbudgeted expenditure and debt contraction in contravention of the Public Debt Management Act and Public Management Act. He interrogated him on why his ministry had failed to account for loans contracted by government. He said Government was overspending and the Finance ministry had failed to present supplementary budget proposals before Parliament. Hon. Biti maintained that it was a waste of time for Parliament to approve budgets yet Governments still overspends. He questioned the Ministry officials on why, over the years, there has not been a Bill for condonation tabled in Parliament. Mr Guvamatanga however highlighted that his Ministry was in the process of compiling, checking and preparing a schedule and cross-checking, with a full team working on compliance issues and loans that have been contracted to make sure that they are presented to Parliament.

Hon Biti adjourned the meeting to next week Monday whereby they will focus on domestic debt, external debt, RBZ overdraft, Treasury Bills, money given to Command Agriculture.

On Tuesday, 29 January 2018, the House of National Assembly resumed sitting and Deputy Speaker Hon Tsitsi Gezi presided over the sitting. On a point of priviledge, Hon Gonese brought to the fore what country experienced during the past two weeks. He expressed concern over the fuel and commodity price hikes. He also made reference to the violence that prevailed, and said there was need for the President to inform Parliament before deploying the army. He also alleged gross human rights violations and asked Parliament and Government to act on alleged cases of rape against women. He also claimed opposition MPs were targeted by state for arrests. After raising these issues, Hon Chinotimba was livid accusing the MDC for organising the ‘stay away’ and instigating violence. Other MPs were arguing that Hon Gonese was abusing his privilege.

On another matter, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi read the Companies and Other Business Entities Bill for the second time. The Bill seeks to replace and update the law relating to the companies and private business private corporations. The present Companies Act was passed in 1951 and needs updating. Amongst the most outstanding new features that will be introduced by this Bill are the following:

  • provision for the issuance of non-par value share rather than shares with a fixed value together with provisions for the valuation of non-par value shares;
  • the introduction of an electronic registry for the incorporation and registration of domestic and foreign companies and private business corporations;
  • the substitution of criminal penalties by civil penalties wherever possible;
  • to establish an inspectorate to better, enforce the provisions of this Bill; to make new provisions for the major and takeover of companies and other business entities;
  • the licencing of business entity incorporation agents and business entity service providers;
  • to clarify and improve the common law principle of bonavacantia, that is vesting in the State of uncleaned properties of defunct companies and private business corporations by instituting a fair and transparent method of declaring such properties to be bonavacantia; to make the beneficial ownership of companies more transparent;
  • the introduction of a continuous system of updating the registry and further provision to combat the use of the company from form for criminal purposes;
  • to define in greater detail, the cooperate responsibilities of directors and board of companies and to encourage good corporate governance. Additional measures to protect shareholders and investors and in particular minority shareholders and investors. Allow me to discuss the individual clauses of the Bill.

The House adjourned at Two Minutes to Five o’clock p.m. and will sit in the afternoon for the Question and Answer Session.

Source: Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST)